Newcastle United travel to West London this weekend for a Saturday match with Fulham, and we sat down with SBN Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential to preview the match. Andrew Beck was kind enough to answer questions from our community, as well as some others that I posed to him.
Coming Home Newcastle: What are the preliminary feelings about the Shahid Khan era? While Mohamed Al Fayed was nothing if not eccentric, Fulham was re-established as a Premier League club under his ownership. Now, however, the club is flirting with relegation (albeit not for the first time) and changing managers seemingly with every shift in wind direction. We went through a similar ordeal after Ashley’s takeover.
Cottagers Confidential: My feelings are a little mixed about Khan and Al Fayed. In hindsight, it seems obvious now that Al Fayed was already preparing to sell the team as early as the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. That was when both Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele were sold, and that money was never reinvested into the club. Because of this, when the Khan took control, the team really needed a makeover. Unfortunately, Khan's management style isn't to come in and blow things up right away. It wasn't until the team struggled greatly that they realized a change was needed. I feel like the changes were a bit of panic however.
CHN: What are your feelings on Magath? Will the Fulham players be back from their daily Magath-sponsored marathon in time for the kick-off? His opening press conference confidence is starting to look more like the ramblings of an overconfident German Joe Kinnear with each passing game.
CC: I'm really not a fan of Magath. Perhaps he was the best gamble to keep the team up. However, I'd have been happy to have promoted Rene Meulensteen to be the manager. If the club went down, he would have been a great option as the manager in the Championship as the club rebuilt around it's impressive youth system.
CHN: Who has been your best player this year?
CC: That's a really tough question. Steve Sidwell has scored the most goals. But he still does a lot of Steve Sidwell things which make me loathe him. Scott Parker has looked good in stretches. Patjim Kasami has looked great at times, but seems to be out of favor with Magath. Lewis Holtby has looked amazing in his short time. Giorgos Karagounis has looked great in limited action, but can you really pick a 37 year old who plays limited sub minutes as your best player?
CHN: It seems from reading CC that you're resigned to relegation. Do you have any hope whatsoever?
CC: I think staying up would be a long shot. Not so much because I don't think it would be possible to earn enough points, but because the team hasn't shown me any reason to be confident. If the team had shown anything, I wouldn't be so down. There are still home games against Hull City, Crystal Palace, and Norwich City. All of those could be wins. It wouldn't be unheard of to defeat Newcastle at home. If they win those 4 games, all of a sudden they are very close to safety. They'd only need to get a few points out of Everton at home and Aston Villa and Stoke away. It isn't an impossible scenario. However, the squad just gave up three goals to Cardiff City in a must win home game. So you can understand while I'm not very confident.
CHN: What went wrong this year?
CC: What didn't go wrong? As I touched on before, the team was setup to fail from the beginning. This was compounded by giving Martin Jol too long of a leash. Then when it became apparent that Meulensteen wouldn't be a miracle worker, the club panicked.
CHN: If Fulham are relegated, which players need to stay and which need to go?
CC: Fulham have a really impressive youth setup. I'm not sure if many people know quite how good it is. The U18 squad is top of the table and has one the U18 title the last two years. The U21 squad is also top of the table. They've done all this while still loaning out some of the top players to lower league sides. You could make a pretty formidable Championship squad just from promoting some of these players.